Book Review: The Hypnotic City
Author: Andrea Berthot
Published by: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication Date: 1 August 2016
Page Count: 218
Source: e-book provided by author
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fantasy
The Hypnotic City is the second book in The Gold and Gaslight Chronicles, and it delivers just as riveting a story as the first.
This story is a spin off from The Heartless City. Philomena Blackwell, friend to Iris and Elliot, the main characters of the first book, escapes London after the quarantine is lifted and runs to New York to pursue her dream of becoming a famous actress on Broadway. She realizes, though, that it won't be as easy as she had thought it would be. Two years after moving to New York and having several different jobs - her most recent dressing as a little girl and singing on a nothing stage, Philomena thinks she has finally found her big break onto the main stage of Broadway. The biggest producer, director, writer, and theater owner in New York wants her as his star. It's her dream come true. Soon, however, it becomes clear that something isn't right, odd things are happening. When Philomena finds out what is going on, it's too late. She's in too deep, and she has no way of escaping without endangering her life, the lives of her friends, and the life of her lover.
This book puts me in mind of The Phantom of the Opera, only the monster isn't hidden in the shadows beneath the stage, he's in plain sight, but nobody knows it. I don't know if the author, Andrea Berthot, was going for a Phantom of the Opera twist since her first book was a Jekyll/Hyde twist, but I liked it even though this one was much more subtle than the first.
The story grips you from the very beginning because you get to know Philomena so well in the first book, but even if it were a stand-alone story, you would still be taken in by the passion and bravery that she possesses. I loved the book and I loved the characters. Berthot once again shows us how wonderfully she can write characters. Philomena is one of the strongest, bravest, most passionate and determined characters I have ever read in any book. Even when she is at her lowest, fighting to save her friends, she doesn't give in to the sick and twisted demands of this "monster of the theater." Jamie, her love interest, is just as passionate and obstinate in his own beliefs, but they don't detract from his character, they make him more complete and likable, and you can feel the love between the two radiating off the pages. I also love the cameos of Philomena's friends from London, they aren't in the story long, but they create even more depth to the story and bring back fond memories of the first book.
Though the story starts a bit slow, it quickly builds up to a suspenseful second half. It's not too slow to take away from the story, however. It lets you get to know Philomena even more, and become more familiar with Jamie, and their new friends. You almost feel as though you're developing a relationship with them. You need that build up, or else the second part of the story wouldn't work as well. You need that chemistry and love development, to see how strong a bond is formed. Philomena has always been a strong character, willing to go against anything that is endangering her friends, and you see that with these new friends. I was turning the pages (or swiping my finger across my e-reader screen) as quickly as I could as the story and suspense began to crescendo. Once you see the evilness, and what it is capable of, there is no way you could ever stop reading till you reach the culmination; and what a culmination it was. An edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting finale.
The imagery of early 1900's New York City, from the streets to the dance halls and theaters to the fashion is so well depicted, it's easy to picture in your mind as you read. I love the care Berthot had to research and make it realistic, to make it as close to the time period as she could: the mix of gaslight and electricity, still mostly horses and carriages, but with a few automobiles. You can see the changing of times through her words. I think it would be an incredible and beautiful story to bring to life on the big screen.
As I said in my review of Andrea Berthot's first book, I have become a forever fan of hers and will always seek out any new reads she writes. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for her and her larger-than-life characters and stories.
One Last Thought: There were a few grammatical errors, but nothing to detract from the story itself, and nothing a closer edit from an editor can't fix.
Favorite Thing about this Book: I loved the message of the book. If you're strong, brave, determined, and passionate, there isn't anything you can't do, whether it's sing and act on Broadway, or defeat the monsters (personal or real), or just be what you want to be in life.
First Sentence: "Look out, Miss Blackwell!"
Favorite Character: Philomena
Least Favorite Character: Tom
Philomena Blackwell survived a city plagued with monsters, the gilded cage of high society, and the rule of a heartless man... and she aims to leave it all behind.
It's 1905, and London has finally been freed from Henry Jekyll's terrible legacy - its people cured, its thirteen-year quarantine lifted. The world is waiting, and for a girl who dreams of being its most dazzling star, what could be more enticing than the bright lights of New York City?
She is drawn across the ocean like a moth to a flame, her heart set on proving that while she may be small on the outside, her soaring talent eclipses even Manhattan’s towering skyline. When she lands a big break, it seems as if the city is ready to fall under her spell - just as she seems to be falling for a handsome young stage manager. But is it her stage presence mesmerizing the audience, or something more sinister behind the scenes?
Philomena has always relied on her fierce will and fiery heart, but a new and more terrible danger lurks in the shadows of Broadway's bright lights, and even a mind as determined as hers may not be immune to its seductive, insidious pull...
Both fans of The Heartless City and new readers alike will enjoy this stand-alone / spin-off tale of Philomena’s adventures on stage - and in love - in NYC.